The Right Tarot Deck for You

By Lalia Wilson

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You may be new to tarot, or a long-time reader of the cards. Either way, you have a preferred deck or decks that you use to stimulate your intuition and to read for yourself or others. There are about ten decks that are constantly recommended to newbies. These include the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Hanson-Roberts deck, the Morgan-Greer deck, the Legacy of the Divine tarot, the Robin Wood Tarot, and others. Just query "best tarot decks for beginners" and see the recommendations. When you dig deeper you will find that the recommended decks have meaningful pictures on all 78 cards and that the illustrations immediately connect you, the reader, to the archetypal intention of the card. 

That's how tarot works, by evoking an archetype in the reader who then (effectively) communicates this to the person requesting the reading. In the world of tarot, there are basically 78 archetypes. A study of tarot will show you that all the 78 cards/archetypes have both positive and negative meanings. Life and tarot interpretation are always a balancing act. (If you doubt that a given card has either positive meanings or negative meanings, play with the idea. In what way would Death be a positive card? In what way would The Sun be a negative card?)

This brings me to the reason for writing this article. Recently I was attempting to read with a new-to-me deck, the Marziano Tarot recreated by Robert M. Place. I love Place's artwork. His decks are a must-buy for me, even though I'm pretty sure his world-view is quite different than mine. So what was wrong when I was going to read the cards? To start with this deck has only 16 majors, and they are the Roman Gods. Place assigns four to each of his suits. The four suits are not your usual Pentacles (Earth), Cups (Water), Swords (Air) and Wands (Fire). Instead, they are pigeons, turtledoves, phoenixes, and eagles. Then they only have two court cards per suit. So this isn't about how bad the Marziano deck is, but it's about if you usually use R-W decks or clones, there is a steep learning curve for this deck. You will not be able to pull it out of the box and read from it. And, did I mention that almost all the pips just show that number of birds on them? 

 Which brings me to you and your favorite deck or decks. You may, like me, be highly attuned to art. This means if a deck is ugly, it doesn’t matter how clever or insightful the imagery might be. Or you may connect to specific archetypes and if the deck does not show your preferred take on a card, then it is not going to be a deck you will get for yourself, or keep. You and the rest of us are looking for a deck that immediately syncs your intuition with the appropriate archetype such that you can read flawlessly and always connect with your client in ways that are helpful. (That's in a perfect world, not this one.) So what do you do?

Start by using a “beginner” deck until you feel that you can read well without needing to refer to written materials. Many readers do just fine using a deck such as those mentioned above for years or decades. (The Radiant Rider-Waite deck from U.S. Games, Inc. is one of my go-to decks.) After you have some comfort with a chosen deck and are ready to explore, look for a deck or deck that speaks to you more strongly than your home deck. You are looking to upgrade. Do these images, these implied interpretations of the archetypes, speak louder and more clearly than what you are accustomed to using? If so, perhaps it is time to make a change.

If you do a lot of readings for others, you may want to have several decks that you use. One would be for children. One for conventional Christians. One for the less conventional religious person. There are decks aimed at Wiccans and Pagans, Christians, and Buddhists. Robert Place is currently working on a deck that connects to the Jewish tradition, The Raziel Tarot. Pick some decks that will work for you and your likely clients.

Realize that if you are fascinated by the tarot, then you will be constantly looking and occasionally upgrading your preferred deck for tarot use. This is for two reasons. First, your understanding of the world will grow. Second, wonderful new creators of decks keep coming up with even better tarot decks! Both are reasons to celebrate.

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